Academic journal article Shofar

Muslims and Jews in France: History of a Conflict

Academic journal article Shofar

Muslims and Jews in France: History of a Conflict

Article excerpt

MUSLIMS AND JEWS IN FRANCE: HISTORY OF A CONFLICT By Maud S. Mandel. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014. x + 253 pp.

The debate about national identity in France has accounted for a good deal of writing during the past half century. This debate has widened with the growing presence of non-Europeans and non-Christians in French society, which has disturbed its traditional collective self-perception. While many books and articles aboutjews and about Muslims in France been published, few have dealt with relations between them. The book by Maud Mandel fills this gap; she examines the roots, the evolution, and the proximate causes of the conflict between the two communities. Using a chronological approach, she traces the development of relationships from the post-World War II period to the end of the twentieth century. She begins by questioning the dominant narrative of polarization and finds instances of cooperation; but she appears to end up accepting the more negative view, that is, a "hardening of the political binary Muslim-Jewish."

Mandel sees many cultural and religious similarities between the Jews and the Muslims, as well as common experiences, such as minority status and problems of integration. She evokes the variable memories of each: for Jews, Vichy and the Holocaust; for Muslims, colonialism and the Algerian war. The Jews overwhelmingly support Israel, while the Muslims support the Palestinians and maintain an active interest in Algeria. Mandel alludes to the tangle of subidentities-Israélite and Juif, Ashkenazi and Sephardi, Muslim and Arab, Beur and Harki-and she discusses the divisions within both communities regarding the relationship between the state and religion in general and the Islamic headscarf in particular.

The creation of Israel, the persistence of antisemitism, and the SixDay war in 1967 resulted in a "re-ethnification" and identitarian transformation of Ashkenazi Jews; Zionism became their dominant orientation, and a bugbear to both Muslims and much of the French political establishment. North African Jews, who once navigated between their French, Algerian, and Jewish identities, progressively intermingled with Ashkenazim and shared their pro-Zionist orientation. This trend was strengthened in the wake of crucial events, ranging from desecrations of cemeteries and attacks on Jewish sites to the murder of Jews. Mandel provides detailed accounts of many of these events as well as of the media wars, mass demonstrations, and political actions associated with them and the official reactions they provoked. She devotes considerable attention to the mobilization of student organizations. Much of her discussion is focused on J ewish-Muslim relations in Marseille, the port of entry of many members of both communities, and the Paris region, where half the country's Jews are concentrated. …

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